If you come to any gym and ask what is the best exercise for chest – they will first of all name the bench press. Saying this they forget that this exercise is not only dangerous (it is not only about damaged shoulders and elbows, you may just drop the barbell on your chest or neck), but needs a plenty of inventory.
A barbell with a set of weights, a stable bench with adjustable angle, a squatting stand (power rack would be better). And then you face the choice without a choice: either buy a gym membership (why not – read the article “Why Not Gym”), or spend a bunch of money and time to install all necessary equipment at home (where is the guarantee that in one month, when the starting torch is faded away a bit, all this would not turn into another expensive coat rack, like dusting velosimulator. To tell you the truth, there is another option, for some reason (I think you know what it is) it is ignored by most of three-month (exactly that long educated) instructors. Push-ups. An exercise that not only works on all the chest muscles, but has a plenty of advantages:
- You don’t need all that bunch of metal that is mentioned above;
- You can easily regulate the load by just changing the position of arms or the body angle, without wasting time to change weights or find free training tool;
- Some kinds of push-ups give an ability to sequence the load on each hand (if you try to do this with a barbell, you’ll become a client of the nearest hospital);
- With less time you work at more muscles, because besides of dynamic load on chest and shoulders you also get an additional static load on body muscles and even legs (for good reason push-ups are called the basic exercise);
- Depending on amount of reps and variation of exercise you can use in to train stamina, as well as strength training.
Although, this is not the full list, this is enough for push-ups (as well as squats) to become one of the main exercises of your home training. I am not forcing you to trust me – try and ensure (like thousands of people, that believe in training with their own bodyweight).
What muscles work: chest, triceps, front deltoids, trapezius muscle, rectus abdominis.
Performing the exercise: stand in emphasis lying on your palms and feet fingertips. Put your hands a little wider than the shoulder width, keep legs together. By the tension of abdominals and buttocks hold all the body from head to heels at one level (photo 1). By bending your arms in elbows on inhale go down to the certain depth (photo 2) and after one second pause go back (on exhale) to the starting position.
Notice: watch your back, do not let it bend or stick out. Elbows should be by your body or not more than 45 degrees widen. To regulate the depth you can put a tennis ball, apple or bended towel under your solar plexus, and go down till touch. Perform the exercise with the tempo: 2-1-1-2 (two seconds to go down, one second pause at the bottom, one second to straighten arms and two seconds to prepare to the next rep).
Variations of push-ups: if classic push-ups are difficult for you yet, you should start from easier variations – angled push-ups and knee push-ups. You can read about those in “Push-ups for Beginners”.
If you can easily do more than 20 reps of classic push-ups with required technique, for full load you should look at power push-ups like: push-ups with wide and narrow hand stance (wide and narrow push-ups), push-ups on pillars, аccented push-ups and three-point push-ups.
Good books to read:
Bret Contreras. Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy – Human Kinetics, 2013 – 224 p.
Kavadlo Al. Pushing the Limits: Total Body Strenght with No Equipment – Dragon Door Publications, 2013 – 224 p.
BJ Gaddour. Your Body Is Your Barbell: No Gym. Just Gravity. Build a Leaner, Stronger, More Muscular You in 28 Days – Rodale, 2014 – 288 p.
Paul Wade. Convict Conditioning 2: Advanced Prison Training Tactics for Muscle Gain, Fat Loss and Bulletproof Joints – Dragon Door Publications, 2012 – 340 p.
Pavel Tsatsouline. The Naked Warrior: Master the Secrets of the Super-strong, Using Bodyweight Exercises Only – Dragon Door Publications, 2004 – 218 p.
Other articles about push-ups:
Push-ups for beginners: angled push-ups (on a wall or a chair), knee push-ups.
Push-ups with different hand positions: wide (hands are one third wider than in classic push-ups) and narrow (fingers touch, “diamond” push-ups).
Pillar push-ups and with legs raised.
Accented push-ups: side-moved (accented on one arm) and with pelvis raised (“triangle push-ups”).
Three-point push-ups: different kinds of one-leg push-ups and also an answer, why there is no one-arm push-ups description.